February 17, 2022 | Reading Time: 5 minutes
That ‘freedom convoy’ in Ottawa? It’s partly inspired by a biblical account of divine massacre
Welcome to the Jericho March.
When a church announces what’s called a Jericho March (or a Jericho Walk), you might picture congregants praying, walking around a building, trumpets blasting and an odd gospel song.
You might forget, however, what comes next.
From Joshua 6:20-21:
When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
Jericho Marches are organized by a group by the same name. They were created by a coalition of Christian nationalists in the US. They are co-led by a Catholic think-tank writer (Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council) and an evangelical businessman (Rob Weaver).
The Jericho Marches rose to prominence recently. Supporters have been marching around the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa for around 20 days. They are, for Americans, a gothic reminder of what had been brewing in the lead up to the J6 sacking and looting of the US Capitol.
The same toxic brew
Jericho March, the group, is one of the religious groups, movements and ideologies that were at play in the insurrection. The Uncivil Religion project has uncovered a bevy of beliefs. The Jericho Marches, however, were the principal symbol of J6 and the Christian nationalism at its heart, not only in DC but at state capitols around the country.
Christian nationalism is a religious idea that transcends borders. It attracts a lot of support from like-minded insurrectionists abroad.
Last year, when journalist Emma Green wrote “A Christian Insurrection” for The Atlantic, it was subtitled it, “Many of those who mobbed the Capitol on Wednesday claimed to be enacting God’s will.”
The CBC Investigates piece on the Ottawa convoy this week is titled, “For many inside the Freedom Convoy, faith fuels the resistance.”
The links are very clear between groupings. And now, organizing in small groups and marching around Parliament, is a new Jericho March.
Filmed versions of Jericho Marches reveal a large group in the snow, bearing primarily Canadian flags and singing hymns, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and then blowing shofars before they began marching.
The hymns and prayers were occasionally punctuated by people yelling “Freedom!” and trucks honking. One woman spoke in tongues before engaging in rhetoric I’ve seen in spiritual warfare sermons.
They prayed for healing from vaccines and for summoning the “Lord of Heaven’s armies.” As the National Review reported, the Jericho March goes every day, once around Parliament, and seven full laps on Thursdays, carrying horns and trumpets. And they hope eventually more will show up, to the tune of thousands and thousands.
Benita Pedersen, an organizer from Alberta, was interviewed by a sympathetic Christian YouTube channel about what they are doing.
Pedersen said she felt a “call on her heart” to do this. She had been given a steer horn by a local farmer. She knew she had to bring it to Ottawa and to do a Jericho March. She’s using that as a shofar.
She said that the “freedom movement” was “100 percent hand in hand with Jesus.” They go together beautifully, she said, and nonbelieving supporters should think about Jesus and about how it goes together.
But, of course, this isn’t her first time.
She led an anti-vaxx rally outside of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton in September, received 10 Public Health Act tickets for organizing various anti-public health rallies in northern Alberta last year and revived her Twitter account, dormant since 2016, specifically in order to promote anti-public health events she organized and ran.
The story of Jericho is Nothing to worry about.
It’s only about divine massacre.
Walls come crumbling down
They know what they are doing. One participant on TikTok recounted the biblical story before backpedaling that this was “not about crumbling walls or infrastructure,” but about softening hearts.
Previous Jericho Marches were not as benign. A year ago, in Edmonton, a Jericho March against pandemic restrictions was condemned by the conservative premier and questioned by anti-hate groups for their intention to march with tiki torches. It was joined by hate groups.
One of the organizers asked “what happened when they marched around seven times on the last day? The walls came crumbling down. Spiritually speaking, we need those corrupt walls that have been built up by the politicians to come smashing and crumbling down.”
“The Great Reset”
Back to Ottawa: Christian nationalist symbols are visible in the mob that has been marching and occupying space around Parliament for about 20 days, though in smaller numbers than in American rallies. It’s part of the broader effort to bring global attention to the “convoy.”
CBC has reported on the prayer circles and speeches and signs in the crowd. Christine Mitchell has written about the Christian nationalist imagery of 2 Chronicles in the crowd. More worrisome, though, is how much international presence, interference and support there is.
Fox News, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino influence groups around the world that spread Facebook propaganda. All of these have directed attention to Canada and fundraised for the occupation of the city.
Franklin Graham, a J6 defender, posted a supporting Instagram video, tagged with “I’d like you to meet who Prime Minister @JustinPJTrudeau called the ‘fringe minority.’ Tell me what you think of this video.” It featured the Jericho March, among others, and it was set to “Amazing Grace,” which was sung loudly by the mob on January 6.
The Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a noted QAnon-adjacent radical traditionalist Catholic, gave a talk that linked the convoy expressly to “a worldwide chorus that wants to oppose the establishment of the New World Order on the rubble of nation-states through the Great Reset desired by the World Economic Forum and by the United Nations under the name of ‘Agenda 2030.’” Viganò added:
“We know many heads of state have participated in Klaus Schwab’s School for Young Leaders — the so-called Global Leaders for Tomorrow — beginning with Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, Jacinta Ardern and Boris Johnson and, before that, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair.”
We should worry
“The Great Reset” is an explicitly anti-public health conspiracy theory. Viganò has promoted it relentlessly. It is also used by anti-vaxx, anti-mask and other anti-mandate groups as their way of drumming up support internationally and bringing in more conspiracy theorists.
Viganò’s message focused on Christian nationalism from a Catholic perspective. It was also permeated with QAnon tropes:
“But, even more, dear Canadian brothers, it is necessary to understand that this dystopia serves to establish the dictatorship of the New World Order and totally erase every trace of Our Lord Jesus Christ from society, from history and from the traditions of peoples.”
The elements of spiritual warfare – repeatedly deployed by Christian nationalist groups before in service of Trump and elsewhere – on the borderline of where it crosses over into physical violence, the Jericho Marches, the violent commentary supporting it, the prayer, the shofars, the echoes of J6 expressed from abroad and divorced from the actual Canadian context – these are a symptom of a broader problem.
Illiberalism is growing. The variant around Trump – conspiracy-laden, seditionist, Christian nationalist – is getting strong by the minute.
Last year, it was in Washington.
This year, Ottawa.
Next year? We should worry.
Thomas Lecaque is a professor of history at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. He has written for the Washington Post, Foreign Policy and The Bulwark. Follow him @tlecaque